VAX /vaks/ n. 1. [from Virtual Address eXtension] The most successful minicomputer design in industry history, possibly
excepting its immediate ancestor, the PDP-11. Between its release
in 1978 and its eclipse by killer micros after about 1986, the
VAX was probably the hacker's favorite machine of them all, esp.
after the 1982 release of 4.2 BSD UNIX (see BSD). Esp.
noted for its large, assembler-programmer-friendly instruction set
--- an asset that became a liability after the RISC revolution.
2. A major brand of vacuum cleaner in Britain. Cited here because
its alleged sales pitch, "Nothing sucks like a VAX!" became a
sort of battle-cry of RISC partisans. It is even sometimes claimed
that DEC actually entered a cross-licensing deal with the
vacuum-Vax people that allowed them to market VAX computers in the
U.K. in return for not challenging the vacuum cleaner trademark in
It is sometimes claimed that this slogan was *not* actually
used by the Vax vacuum-cleaner people, but was actually that of a
rival brand called Electrolux (as in "Nothing sucks
like..."). It has been reliably confirmed that Electrolux (a
Swedish company) actually did use this slogan in the late 1960s; it
has apparently become a classic example (used in textbooks) of the
perils of not knowing the local idiom.
It appears, however, that the Vax people thought the slogan a
sufficiently good idea to copy it. Several British hackers report
that their promotions used it in 1986--1987, and we have one report
from a New Zealander that the infamous slogan surfaced there in TV
ads for the product as recently as 1992!